Archive for March, 2013

Don’t talk to strangers

26 March 2013

The tiny flowers that look like snow

The edges of the sidewalk up at the northern end of Grand Ave. have recently become speckled with sprinkles of white. It looks like a little bit of snow hanging on in the last cold days of spring, or the salt sometimes used to make such snow melt at a lower temperature.

But it’s neither of those things; it’s a white-flowered ground cover. I picked one of the flowers the other day and brought it home and looked at it under the microscope. It’s a four-petaled flower only 5mm across (that’s about 3/16 of an inch). There seem to be more than 4 stamens, though. The foliage is dark and looks a little like a succulent, or like bedstraw (a wildflower used as ground cover). I haven’t figured out for sure yet what it is. Walking along, you can’t really tell it’s a flower. Just something white sprinkled on the ground.

tiny spring flower

Our tiny roadside spring flower.

Don’t talk to strangers

A few days ago I saw a girl walking up Grand as I was walking down Grand after work. She looked a little worried or something. Then I saw, up Terre View to the west, a little boy – her little boy. She waited for him at the corner then walked home with him.

The next day (or the day after) I saw him again. He was walking home himself this time, and he took the “shortcut” up to the first level parking lot of my building. Did he live in the Glendimer?

And not soon after that I saw him again. He looked at me like he kind of recognized me, and climbed up the rock at the mini-park at the corner and said, “king of the mountain!” and smiled at me. We walked together for a while, then I asked him if he lived up there in those buildings and he said yes. I told him I lived there, too. I said something else – forget what – and he answered but said, “but you’re a stranger, and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” “It’s good they’re teaching you that,” I said, thinking that probably wasn’t exactly true. Then I walked ahead of him and crossed the street. But as I was getting across, he ran to the corner, and I waited for him to cross, and we walked up to his “shortcut.” “I like to go this way,” he said. “I know you do,” I said, “I go around the other way.” When I got up the driveway, he crossed my path again, then took another “shortcut” up through the juniper bushes that cover the hill between the lower parking lot and the next higher one.

Not advice for a lifetime

I wondered later if people were getting stuck with this advice that they were taught as children. I wasn’t taught this. And for good reason: It doesn’t work. Even for a child it doesn’t work. What if you’re hurt and need help? What about your first day in school when everybody is a stranger? How do you make friends? It just totally doesn’t work.

Adults do it, I figured, because they feel like children are too trusting. They haven’t developed adult discernment skills yet, so can’t tell a slime ball from someone who might be a valuable friend. But then, lots of adults can’t tell the difference, either!

The lessons they never taught me

When I was a teenager, I developed quite an upset over the fact that there was no place that taught me about people. How to understand them, how to help them, how to live with them. My parents didn’t seem to know much about this. The only real advice I got along this line was from my mother who told me once that if I got attacked by a bully I should fight back. They’d leave me alone after that. Pretty good advice.

I desperately wanted answers to why people were the way they are, and what to do about it. But just as my parents seemed a bit clueless along this line, so my schools didn’t seem to want to touch this subject with a ten foot pole.

Now they teach psychology in school. But these days, psychology isn’t really about people, either. It’s about behavior and how to control it. That’s what the people who pay psychologists have always been interested in. I don’t know if that’s what most psychologists are actually interested in, though.


What we should tell our kids, and what they deserve to be told, is that we don’t want them to make friends with adults until their parent or parents have met the person. That’s because adults have the skills to be able to tell slime balls from good people. And when they are grown up, they’ll know too, because it’s taught in school.

In fact, being able to talk to “strangers” is one of the higher of adult social skills. And a person who can turn strangers into friends can have a good, full life. One who can’t will still feel like that little boy walking home from school, not sure it’s okay to talk to that somewhat interesting old man.

Pullman is at 2,300 feet

23 March 2013

Lewiston Idaho is just 25 miles south of Pullman. SEL has a plant there.

Lewiston is on the Snake River, at about 750 feet elevation.

Pullman is on the hills above the Snake, at about 2,300 feet elevation.

A bunch of folks who work at SEL in Pullman live in Lewiston. One was telling us how last week it was 70 degrees (F) in Lewiston. Now that’s Spring! We haven’t seen those temperatures in Pullman yet.

This time of year, the difference in elevation keeps Pullman about 10 degrees (F) colder than Lewiston.

For example, this week temperatures in Lewiston are expected to climb back up to near 70, lows in the 40s. While here in Pullman, the temperatures are only expected to get up to the low 60s, with lows near freezing. Right now, air temperatures in Pullman are bottoming out down in the 20s at around 5AM every morning (about when I get up to go to work).

A new microscope

Now that I have a bicycle, I am more willing to get out and around town. So middle of last week I headed out to buy some groceries and hunt for cool stuff in the local thrift store (Palouse Treasures).

I found a great used Dell monitor for $20, but I also spied – tucked away on an inconspicuous shelf behind the stereo equipment – a student microscope. I couldn’t carry both home at the same time, so I came back the next day and the microscope was still there. It was in extremely good condition, so I made the lady charge me $49.99 for it instead of the $29.99 they were asking.

I had a little “toy” microscope when I was a kid. It was fun. The book I got told me to put a lettuce leaf in some water and let it sit around for a few days. So I did, then looked at a little drop under the microscope. And there were all kinds of little things swimming around in there! I also got prepared slides with little insects and so forth. Very interesting to look at them magnified.

This scope is a classic American Optical “Spencer” made around 1965 (according to a list of serial number ranges I found on the internet). They don’t make them any more, though other companies make others very similar. It has a 10X eyepiece and 3 objectives – 4X, 10X and 43X – and a built-in light. It’s a big, well-built thing and it works great. How neat to have a microscope again after all these years! Will probably mostly look at electronics stuff with it. And will try to find a camera that can take digital photos through it.

I couldn’t find any of my own drawings of things under a microscope, but here’s something from a biology handout I got for a summer class I took in the 1960s:

pond life

Drawings of microscopic pond water creatures.

A Musician and A Spy

16 March 2013

The Musician

Chie Ayado

Chie Ayado (courtesy Asia Wiki)

My friend Patrick, who has been living in Bali, recently sent out to his friends some short articles he wrote about Western popular music in Japan. He concentrated on the Yellow Magic Orchestra, but also mentioned various different acts and linked to some videos. YouTube has this thing of showing “related” videos in the player window after you play a video. And one of the “related” videos I ran across showed a performance of Chie Ayado (in Japanese).

This girl is strong. She was born in 1957 in Osaka. And that’s all I know about her! She is a famous Japanese entertainer and there is no data about her available through Google! But she has been singing Western pop tunes (and also doing some very funny stuff) for Japanese audiences for at least 20 years, probably more like 30 years. There are a LOT of YouTube videos of her. That’s the only way I know her. Her communication is relaxed, direct, and very impinging. One of many stars on this planet.

The Spy

I was looking though my Facebook “wall” (or whatever it’s called) recently, and one of my friends had posted a petition drive notice from a group called Global Zero. This is one strange group. They are going for zero nuclear weapons on planet earth by 2030. Now, this is not only a laudable goal, but it is very necessary for a variety of reasons. But these guys seem to be running on nothing but marketing. I try to look under the hood, and I don’t see any engine. Just a bunch of young and not-so-young idealistic people who all look like they could be CIA operatives, like the whole Kony fiasco seemed to be.

And the weird thing is: One of their most active spokeswomen IS an ex-CIA operative.

Valerie Plame

Plame is short for a fancier European name. Her father was Jewish, apparently, but she never knew that while she was growing up. She was a “military brat” and, in her father’s footsteps, chose to serve her country. In the CIA.

I didn’t hear about this when it happened. On Bastille Day of 2003 Valerie’s CIA cover was blown by a reporter for the Washington Post who was given the information by Richard Armitage in the State Department. After that, she could no longer work under cover, and in 2005, she left the CIA and started writing and speaking about her work there.

Look at this girl:

Valerie Plame Wilson

Valerie Plame Wilson (courtesy Huffington Post)

This is the classic good-looking, very smart, very dedicated college-educated person that the CIA actively recruits, and has always actively recruited. But this one got away. Now she’s a peace activist (apparently).

So what is Global Zero really? And what do they actually intend to accomplish? Like Ed Schweitzer always says, selling is basically an education job. But what does Global Zero have to teach?

I haven’t found out yet.

Government as insurance company

6 March 2013

What I consider fact:

Modern government, certainly on the federal level in the US, is acting like an insurance company.

The hypothesis

Proposition 1: People experience violations of their basic human rights.
Proposition 2: An armed force has been considered the best protection against such violations.
Conclusion A: People considered they needed armed forces to protect their basic rights, and thus the need for armed governments arose.

Proposition 3: Real criminals act through people who are willing to use violence to get their way.
Proposition 4: Since real criminals are unable to operate as honest citizens, they survive by stirring up trouble between groups that are willing to use violence to get their way, pretending to advise one or the other side on what the other side might do next.
Conclusion B: The whole “civilized” pattern of warring states was basically created by real criminals for their own personal purposes.

Proposition 5: Most forms of insurance exist to protect the insured from various types of criminal violence.
Proposition 6: It is in the interest of those who offer insurance protection of this type to be able to secretly control the amount of violence that actually takes place.
Conclusion C: This makes any form of paid “protection” against losses due to violence actually a criminal protection racket.

Proposition 7: Most forms of insurance, going back to early times, consisted of pools of funds or resources that were contributed to roughly in proportion to an individual’s or group’s productiveness, and paid out according to who suffered the most “bad luck”.
Proposition 8: This fits the Marxist model of a “scientific” society, and also the philosophy (to the extent that there is one) that justifies such abominations as income tax.
Conclusion D: A government funded by income tax is about the same as an insurance company funded by premium payments. And both are basically protection rackets.


Naturally, people who are “lucky” and never need insurance payments can feel a bit cheated by this system. From my viewpoint this is totally true. They are in fact being suckered or leaned on into supporting criminals. The real criminals are not usually the ones getting the payments. They are the ones running the racket (the crime syndicate, the insurance company, or the government).

The perception that insurance is widely necessary because “shit happens” feeds a fatalism in society that can become widespread. And it enriches those who are working hardest (to the extent that you can call this work) to give people the impression that there are some things that they just can’t control.

This idea is basically a lie. Although in the physical universe it seems very logical, in the spiritual universe it is totally specious.

Since our universe is a mixture of the spiritual and the physical (the sublime and the ridiculous, the divine and the despoiled) we should take a better-informed and more balanced approach to this whole issue.

Physical health

Here is a realm in which the spiritual and the physical often violently clash.

It has been demonstrated that treating a person in a totally spiritual way can affect his health in a variety of ways.

This gets into the whole topic of predisposition. In modern medical jargon, the only recognized predisposition to disease besides “genetic” is called “stress.” Stress occurs in the presence of criminality.

The way out of a violent society

The way out of this cycle of violence, a growth in criminal influence, and the subsequent decay of organized societies is the knowledge of its root cause.

With this knowledge, one can help individuals and groups who want to improve conditions to rise above the influence of suppressive criminals who are trying to keep them fighting, unhealthy and confused.

We can have any form of government, taxation and insurance that we want. But without a better knowledge of the spiritual aspects of these human activities, they can easily be used to destroy what is good and decent in life.